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The Fretting Leprosy

Kid #4 is a varsity volleyball-playing high school senior, and taking all 6’ 5” of him into pediatrics after a long day at the office isn’t my idea of a good time.

It has been a long while since I’ve had a sick kid. Our family doctors retired a couple of years ago and a new Pharaoh rose up who knew not Joseph.

The fact is, I had better things to do, like go home and make bricks, and why the doctor standing there didn’t realize that is beyond me.

I don’t bring a kid in unless I actually think there’s a problem. Our old doctor knew that and respected my inquiry. The new guy tried to pat us on the head and send us out the door.

“We’re seeing a lot of this right now,” said Pharaoh, “A virus can present ‘nothing but a fever’ for up to ten days. Go home and rest.”

“He’s had nothing but a fever for five days. That is not normal. At least test him for the flu.”

He saw the look in my eyes and tested.

Of course it was negative. I knew the kid didn’t have the flu. I also knew the kid didn’t have a virus. I also knew the kid didn’t have anything on his whole body infected.

Not my first rodeo.

This is why they made doctors. Do your thing, mister.

But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and we went home to wait. And the kid got slowly slower and the fever came around like clockwork and he missed a week of school and I dragged him back into Pharaoh’s court on Friday.

“Test him for everything,” I demanded, “Our family has some pretty crazy medical history that we can’t ignore, even for a virus.”

They drew eight vials of blood, and we went home to wait some more.

And still the fevers came. They came in low and they roared up high and they snuck out the back door and pretended to leave, only to reappear with the dawn.

“The results are consistent with a virus,” said Pharaoh, “I’ve had two other doctors look them over. Your kid is fine. Get some rest.”

And still the fevers came. He missed another week of school.

We dragged the kid back in, Hubby and I both.

There wasn’t much to say.

“Hmm,” said Pharaoh, poking tentatively at the kid, “yes, this could be a sinus infection. That’s probably what’s going on. The virus gave him a secondary sinus infection.”

He scratched on some papyrus, patted us all on the head, and sent us away.

I had my doubts about it, but a course of antibiotics would work on more than a sinus, so I felt comfortable enough to leave the kids for a weekend and fly to Cancun with the Hubby for a get-away planned long ago. (That blog will be next.)

What I expected to see, upon reentering America, was a son well on his way to recovery.

What I found was a son looking very ill and puffy and strange…and still fretting with his fever.

I am patient and I am logical and I am a keen observer of my children. I gave it two days before deciding that Pharaoh was about to receive all ten plagues upon his pyramid, and I was going to begin with fire and brimstone.

Seeing that my cup of fury was about to runneth over, Hubby offered to take the kid back in.

There is nothing more exciting than to be sitting at your office desk and receive a text saying that your child reacted so poorly to a blood draw that every available doctor was summoned to his side immediately.

And they kept Hubby waiting anxiously outside, wondering if his kid was dead or alive.

Words fail me.

It was a very long day at my desk.

I dragged myself home and into the house.

The kid immediately appeared, saying, “Hey Mom, look at this.”

He lifted his shirt. Red spots everywhere.

I called Egypt. I informed them that we were marching in to war. We jostled between peasants and pestilence and elbowed up to the obelisk, surreptitiously googling petechiae.

The last of Pharaoh’s advisors accepted our challenge.

“Hmm,” he said, “Interesting. He’s had a lot of tests. But I don’t see mono on the list. I’m adding it to today’s blood draw. Might as well.” He turned to the kid, “Let’s have a look at you.”

The kid raised his shirt. The vizier stared at it for a minute.

Then he made the kid say “Aaaaahhhh”.

He swabbed a tonsil and disappeared for five minutes.

“Strep!” he declared, dancing back in, “A roaring case of it, too. I’ll write you up another antibiotic, obviously you’re allergic to the other one and it wasn’t working anyway.”

We went home with some hope in a paper bag. The kid swallowed his new pills and went to bed.

Yesterday was Friday. I kissed my sleeping boy in the dawn and went to work.

Hubby and the kid returned to Pharaoh’s court, who declared that, although his advisor may have diagnosed him, last night’s prescription was not at all correct.

He handed them a third bag of pills, patted them both on the head, and sent them away.

When I finally made it home again, there was a message on my phone from Pharaoh’s office.

“You need to call us right away, there are new lab results that you need to have right now. Please call this number back!”

And I sat down. And the kid wandered over.

And we called the number, he and I.

Three weeks into this, he doesn’t have just strep, he has strep that went into scarlet fever. We glanced at the rash covering his body with bright crimson hieroglyphics. He doesn’t just have a fever, he has a raging case of mono. I looked into his eyes as the nurse went on and on with the edict, and we felt the next days and weeks pour out between our fingers like sand.

Volleyball is over. Easter is cancelled. There are AP tests, and a youth conference and a family reunion and prom on the calendar.

We have no idea what will be, but at least we have named this fretting leprosy, and so it will lose it’s power.

And we will conquer it.

Will the real doctor please step forward?

Published inParenting


  1. sheri

    Strep and Mono were the first things they should have tested in a teenager with a fever with that duration. If you are ever in that position with a doctor again ask for the patient advocate or ombudsmen. Also, get w/the school counselor ASAP to get an accommodations plan in place and get documentation of the severity of the illness from the M.D. in question. AP’s can have late testing dates depending on the district. So sorry for all of you’ve had to go through.

  2. Annette Clarke

    Thank you for always making your blog so interesting and that added humor is great (love the bringing on the 7 plagues comment.) So sorry you all went through this especially the patient (aptly named) All that returning back to court for a true diagnosis Did God give you any clues on that whole journey.? I have been on similar journeys answers have been strangely placed.

    Anyway hope said patient is doing better and happy he has such an amazing Mum and Dad and family surrounding him and of course Gods grace on you all. We send our love.

  3. Lynette Lange

    Jolie, if any mother can handle this, you are that mother. I hope he is comfortable and not too disappointed in the way his senior year is wrapping up. I suppose it’s better to get mono while at home surrounded by family than to get it while away at college. Hang in there, family. Tell him I wish him a quick recovery.

  4. Emm

    We need to fling fooey at all those doctors… And then eat ice cream… Ice cream is always best. Feel better kid. Love you guys. Xo

  5. Kiki

    Gees, this is terrible! I’m so sorry he’s so sick! Please give him a big hug for me and tell him I hope he feels better soon.

    • Pat

      Substandard care by physician needs to stop! I think a written complaint for substandard care might be in order. You can go on line and check out the doctor’ s record on the Medical Board of California

      I hope he is on the mend and will not be subject to returning to the three doctor who supposedly examined him, patted him on the head and sent him home more than once.

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